Saturday, February 23, 2008

Time with One of My Religious Mentors

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful seminar with one of my favorite Episcopal clergypersons and writers, Barbara Crafton, held at my childhood church in Lynchburg, Virginia. For those who may not have heard of her before, Barbara was at one time rector and/or on staff at several churches in Manhattan, and served as a chaplain at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. In recent years, she has been the creative force behind the Geranium Farm, her home and the source of countless daily meditations, devotionals, books, and inspiration for millions of readers.

The conference she was leading was entitled "Loving Your Enemy" and was a discussion of how we can begin the healing process for the hurt resulting from our hatred of others, and how we not only can learn to forgive those people but can -- in our mind and heart -- once again make them a part of humanity. I was pleased at the turnout for the main day of the conference (nearly 80 people), and heard that the cocktail reception and talk she gave on the evening before were even more well-attended.

She divided her talk into three parts, and rather than try and reconstruct everything that was said I would like instead post some notes that I took and hope that they'll generate some discussion here.

Part I - Why do we have enemies?

  • Main reason is because they are different from us.
  • Difference is a morally neutral concept, but we make it moral.
  • One of the biggest points of debate today is the issue of immigration -- and who are the primary enemies of immgrants? The children of other immigrants.
  • The world is full of annoying people -- why does any one in particular touch your heart the way he or she does?
  • We have a need to keep people who are different from us at a distance, and when we do encounter them we get angry because we see how much of us is in them, and how much of them is in us.
Part II - How does God take the grounds for unity and actually create unity?

  • The way to that world of unity is through prayer.
  • Prayer is small, but tough.
  • What is prayer was in fact a petition to a sort of obedient genie? Would your enemy really be safe in your hands if you prayed to this being? Would your prayer for that person really be a curse?
  • When we pray, there's something in us that is sure we'd better make our prayers sound like the King James version of the Bible, or Rite I in the Book of Common Prayer.
  • When you pray blessings on your enemy, your really don't mean it -- but it's not a conscious decision that you're making.
  • Don't use prayer to curse someone, and don't lie when you pray and make up things that you think God wants to hear.
  • You don't have to make up a bunch of Sunday school platitudes for someone you can't stand.
  • The first thing to do to approach a place of reconciliation with your enemy is simply to say his name.
  • When you think of your enemy and feel the blood start pumping and your heart start racing, you're having an allergic reaction to that enemy.
  • Whenever you pray, say the name of your enemy; in so doing, you're introducing tiny bits of your enemy into a system that has become allergic to him.
  • If you do this consistently over a period of days, weeks, months, and years, you'll notice that things are getting better -- that the swelling in your soul caused by this person is starting to go down.
  • There's no shame in being unable to forgive or unite, because your soul is swollen.
  • You have to trust that God knows better than you what to do; when you introduce the name of your enemy into your prayers, God will take it from there.
  • There is no level for a crime that makes it unforgiveable; we are either all forgiveable or all unforgiveable.
  • Praying for your enemy means that they ultimately reenter the human race as far as you are concerned; this prayer changes you and it changes the person for whom you are praying.
Part III - If you're talking all the time, how can God get a word in edgewise?

  • Let God do the heavy lifting; one of our fears is that He won't -- and what we fear most is that he can't.
  • When you're praying for yourself, don't say your own name; instead, use an image of yourself and put yourself at a distance. Picture yourself as a child, for instance, wearing the favorite clothes from childhood.
  • Praying for someone opens a path between you and them; the more you pray, the more trodden that path.
  • When you pray for the fallen, you are also joined in prayer with the enemy.
  • Pray for your enemy first; unless your enemy is acknowledged and faced, it will sabotage the spiritual person you want to be.
  • The primordial definition of sin is putting ourselves in God's place.
One of the most amazing comments of the morning was made by a gentleman in the audience, who said that the goal should be "To allow ourselves to be known as God is known, and to know as God knows."

The entire event was outstanding and very moving, and concluded with a Eucharist in the sanctuary where I and several other folks read the lessons and the prayers and then we all received communion while standing in a circle around the altar.

I would encourage you to go to Barbara's website, find her books, and see what she has to say. I guarantee it will impact you in ways you can't imagine or for which you are prepared.


Kansas Bob said...

This is good Matt:

"Would your enemy really be safe in your hands if you prayed" goes to the heart of prayer

..I wonder if I am really honest when I pray

..I wonder how I would have prayed if I was David being chased by Saul.

Good thoughts this morning. Thanks Matt!

karen said...

This is cool. Thanks!